Selected Poems

by Petr Hruška

Translated from the Czech by Jonathan Bolton

The Silent One

That’s him.

It happens.

Selective mutism,

as learned people call it,

the sudden loss of speech.

From one day to the next,

a person presses his hands to his body,

his mouth turns into a line,

he no longer gives out a word,

a sob,

or even a sigh.

Instead of laughter, and then only rarely,

there is a mute grin,

crying without tears.

He doesn’t even talk in his sleep.

In the midst of others, he stands

all lengthwise,

like a fright or a threat.

Cause unknown.

The doctors say not to pressure him,

so the others

mainly just turn up the volume,

waving their hands,

speaking now more vehemently, and more often,

speaking for him as well.

Mlčící (from the collection Darmata, 28)


Take off the shoe.

It’s the last children’s size.

The instructions on the glue bottle

are printed in tauntingly small type –

you’ll have to read them.

We lean

over the filthy wet shoe.

We’ll roughen the surface of the rubber

and let the chemical process go to work inside the split.

You should realize

that our bodies, too, are made of oxygen and carbon

from ancient stars.

Distant, solitary stars.

You talk about Mom.

So put your finger on the loop,

we’ll use the shoelaces to pull the glued-on sole tight.

The night zooming by,

the crazily bound shoe.

The last children’s size.

Bota (from the collection Darmata, 14)

Looking Through

As if it were an old Dutch painting

he sees, through an open door,

another open door

and only then

part of a woman’s figure

standing on cold tiles,

bent, persisting, over

a motionless rivulet

of household water

Průhled (from the collection Darmata, 49)

Caitlyn Garcia